07/03/2009 12:00AM

Southern Style favored at Louisiana Downs


BOSSIER CITY, La. - Top level sprints in the Ark-La-Tex region are hard to come by in the thick of the summer months, so when a rare third-level optional claiming affair was offered for Sunday, several barns jumped at the opportunity.

The race was going to mark the long-awaited return of Foreign Production, winner of the Old Hickory Stakes over open company at Fair Grounds last November, but those plans have been put on hold by trainer James Hodges after his 3-year-old Louisiana-bred spiked a fever.

"He's got a lung infection," said Hodges Friday morning. "I just dropped a scratch card in on him."

With the defection of Foreign Production, the favorite's role should fall to Southern Style, who is trained by Maynard Chatters. Southern Style has been a model of consistency since being claimed for $10,000 out of a nonwinners-of-three at Fair Grounds in mid-February. Chatters thought enough of his new charge to run him back after a brief freshening in the Need for Speed Stakes at Evangeline Downs on May 1. Against some of the best sprinters in the area, Southern Style rallied from well off the pace to finish third, beaten 2 1/2 lengths.

In his most recent start, Southern Style came running late to be almost three lengths clear in a nonwinners-of-two optional claimer here June 11. Curt Bourque will again be in the saddle Sunday.

Stoney Gold moves to the main track after a gate-to-wire victory at Sunday's condition level on the turf here June 7. Trained by Pam Simpson, Stoney Gold has won 5 of 18 career starts and seldom has looked better than he is right now. Lonnie Meche has the return call.

The wild card in the race is Code Runner. Now under the care of James Kight, the 3-year-old Omega Code colt was a stakes regular in Florida last year as a 2-year-old and won the Fasig Tipton Dash on the grass at Calder in early September. He will be making his first start of the year.

Three Thursday disqualifications

The record heat that has gripped the area appears to be having a negative effect on the riding colony's temperament.

It was standing room only in the stewards office Thursday morning as nine jockeys were in to review replays from last Sunday's program, which included several incidents of what the judges perceived to be careless or rough riding.

The morning's video screening didn't seem to make a difference, however, as there were three disqualifications for riding infractions on the Thursday nine-race program. Riders Dustin Dugas, Richard Eramia, and Ramsey Zimmerman all had their numbers taken down, and on Friday each received a one week suspension from the Louisiana Downs stewards.